Have you ever needed to get hold of quality educational resources for a subject you are teaching but were not sure where to go? or wanted to see how your colleagues are teaching your subject in other institutions or parts of the world? Have you wanted inspiration or wanted to bypass the ‘noise’ that one often finds on public sites like YouTube or Google? If you answered yes to any of these questions then Open Educational Resources or OERs may be of interest to you.
What is an OER?
The most often used definition for the term OER is: ‘digitised materials offered freely and openly for educators, students and self-learners to use and reuse for teaching and learning and research’ (OECD, 2007). The concept of ‘openness’ is based on the idea that knowledge should be disseminated and shared freely through the Internet for the benefit of society as a whole (Yuan. L et al, 2008). OER are made available online through open licenses such as Creative Commons so getting familiar with Creative Commons licenses is a good starting point when thinking about using OERs in your teaching.
Over the past 10 years, teaching materials have increasingly migrated to digital formats. From the simple websites of the late 1990s, today’s course websites have become dynamic interactive spaces within Virtual Learning Environments like QMplus here at Queen Mary. In a VLE students can carry out a range of learning activities e.g. they share thoughts and answer questions on discussion boards or blogs, access and analyse critical readings before or after their lectures and seminars, update their personal learning journals, do exercises related to relevant research archives, watch videos from public and educational sites and even listen to audio podcasts of lectures or audio feedback on their essays.
Despite the rapid rise in the number of blended and fully online courses and the satisfaction students get from engaging with these various modes of teaching, it still takes considerable time, commitment and dedication to develop good online course materials that contain a variety of tasks, activities, well-researched links, podcasts and videos. The necessary time commitment is the reason cited by many lecturers for not doing it at all.